by Brian Wood (writer), Riccardo Burchielli (art), Jeromy Cox (colors), and Jared K. Fletcher (letters)

The Story: Matty Roth takes on a more pro-active, and more violent, role in Parco Delgado’s government.

What’s Good: When we last saw him in issue 40, Matty Roth had really hit a crossroads in his life, and this issue succeeds in showing a new and very different Matty, one who’s full of confidence, power, and ruthlessness.  Wood achieves this evolution very organically; the Matty we see in this issue, while very different, is nonetheless clearly and distinctly the “Matty Roth” that we’ve grown to know over the course of the series.  Considering how much has changed since his bumbling intern status at the beginning of the series, that’s quite the achievement.

While still maintaining the voice and integrity of the “Matty Roth” character, Matty in this issue sounds a lot more like the major power players we’ve encountered over the series in his intelligence and political maneuvering.  Of course, that also foreshadows the serious shades of grey to come, as those very power players were generally the adversaries.

It’s also great to see Angel  (the sniper who hangs out in his perch all day) back in the mix and playing a more central role.  The guy’s a definite fan favourite and Wood seems well aware of this.

Burchielli puts out some of the best art I’ve seen him draw on DMZ.  While his urban designs and landscapes have always been impressive, and that’s once again the case here, I’ve often found his art to be a bit too “scratchy” or scraggly for my tastes, but everything feels surprisingly crisp and well-defined here.  It’s a very good-looking book with a lot of detail and the haunting, barren, yet super dense architectural work that we’ve come to expect.

What’s Not So Good: While I’m all in favour of this evolution of Matty and believe it’s well done overall, I’m not entirely sure that I buy his actions at the end of this month’s issue.  It’s not so much what he plays a part in or orders, nor is it necessarily in his behaviour.  What I don’t buy is Matty suddenly becoming the tactical field-leader of a unit of commandos.  Did I miss something?  When did Matty become well-trained enough to lead and command a team of soldiers, let alone in the field?  While there’s a definite cool factor in seeing “spec ops Matty,” it’s not believable.  While for most comics, I’d play it to the suspension of disbelief often necessary in the medium, Wood, research-intensive as he is, has never been one to need that card played on his behalf.  Seeing Matty lead a raid and blow people away with an assault rifle also still feels a little weird for the character and still too much of a stretch.  Matty has evolved, yes, but not to the point of being an ice-cold commando.

I also felt Parco to be a little more bland in his dialogue than he usually is.  The basketball court meeting was a nice touch, but the rest of his conversation with Matty just felt a little more lifeless than it could’ve been.  It was clearly more a matter of moving the pieces across the board than anything else.

Conclusion: A good issue that’s solid throughout, before a rather questionable final scene.

Grade: B

-Alex Evans